One of of the key logistical differences between the Democratic and Republican primaries this year is the number of competitors and the rate of shrinkage we’ve seen in the two fields. The GOP started out with somewhere between 16 and 900 candidates (it was so hard to keep track) but they began dropping out last summer. One at a time they fell by the wayside, accelerating the body count as we moved into the winter and the first actual casting of ballots. But even for all the trimming of the fat, we still have five and will likely have a minimum of three for some time to come.
By contrast, the Democrats had a perceived 800 pound gorilla waiting in the wings who scared off all but the most fringe hopefuls. (When you can’t even get a sitting Vice President to give it a go, there’s very little oxygen left in the room.) O’Malley wasn’t ever taken seriously, so the only other person who was loony tunes enough to take on Hillary Clinton wound up being an ancient socialist from Vermont.
The problem here – assuming you even think of it as a problem – is that once you get down to a two person race, nobody wants to get out, no matter how lopsided the battle appears. Whichever anti-Trump candidate remains standing at some point after March 15th, you can bet they’ll be hanging in there until the bitter end. The same is likely true for Bernie Sanders, and that’s a good thing for both of the parties. Over at the Washington Post, perpetual Democratic Party spokesperson Greg Sargent sets forth some of the reasons why Bernie has a perfect excuse to take this to the limit.
— The Sanders campaign will probably have the resources to keep on going, no matter what happens, because his massive small donor base could very well send in cash again and again, particularly if he suffers some setbacks.
— Sanders will be able to pile up a lot of delegates even if he falters in the long run. That’s because he’s likely to win as many as five states on Super Tuesday to begin with; and beyond that, since delegates are awarded proportionately, he’ll pull in a lot of them even in states where he loses.
— The Sanders campaign still thinks it can win, but even if it doesn’t, taking the race all the way to the convention could still play an important role in the “revolution” Sanders hopes to set in motion.
Here’s another reason that last bullet point makes some sense: young voters are supporting Sanders in overwhelming numbers. And they may continue to do so.
For once I’m not going to quibble with any of Greg’s points, at least if you’re looking on from the Democrats’ bench. But there’s more to this story. First of all, just as so many cable news spokesmodels have pointed out, Hillary came into this battle as a very poor candidate. She was terrible at debates and weak in the few interviews she gave to the media. Fighting off Bernie has sharpened her game and put some fire in her belly. Also, the looming danger from her left flank is no doubt bringing in more primary money for her coffers. And finally, the one point which Sargent and others are loathe to say out loud is precisely the one thing they are all thinking: if Hillary winds up being indicted they’re going to need a backup plan, and for better or worse, Bernie is what they’ve got.
But let’s leave the Democrats aside. Republicans should be thrilled at the prospect of Bernie going deep. For one thing, since he became a legitimate threat to her campaign, additional debates and town halls for the Democrats have been scheduled. Sanders continues to push her further and further to the left, providing scads of ammunition for the GOP to use against her in the general election. The increased scrutiny continues to highlight more and more of Clinton’s endless flip flops on the issues. And the drumbeat of Wall Street, conjuring up images of the old white boys network (even if this one is female) continues to exasperate the SJW. On top of that, Bernie is still carrying the enthusiasm and dreams of the youth vote which was so critical to both of Obama’s two victories. But they’re a notoriously unreliable lot when it comes time to show up in November and if Bernie’s eventual exit leaves them in a fit of depression they may largely choose to stay home and play Call of Duty this November rather than showing up for Clinton.
Of course the final consideration for Republicans is the possibility that Bernie somehow winds up being the nominee. A septuagenarian socialist with endless film clips of him promising to raise everyone’s taxes and struggling to explain how “democratic socialism” isn’t the same as actual socialism? No matter who winds up with the GOP nomination, I’ll take that match any day of the week, thank you very much.